Associate Dean of Students Robb Arndt focuses on student well-being.
When asked to describe a typical workday, Associate Dean of Students Robb Arndt rattles off a fairly diverse list: engaging in conversations with students, teaching a LinC class, meeting with student leaders or faculty, maybe leading a seminar or working on programming.
But the connection to each task is clear: student well-being is at the core of everything done by Arndt and his colleagues in the Dean of Students Office.
Arndt spends much of his time focused on students’ mental health and wellness, be it through working with a group or sitting down one-on-one to discuss a particular challenge or an aspect of life at SPS. In all cases, LinC, which stands for Living in Community, is a linchpin. “The LinC curriculum guides the LinC classes, the in-house/dormitory meeting curriculum, leadership training, as well as how our faculty talk about students,” Arndt says.
During their Third and Fourth Form years, SPS students take part in a yearlong LinC curriculum that covers such topics as cultural competency, diversity and inclusivity, personal identity, sexuality, drugs and alcohol, gender and wellness. Fifth and Sixth Formers participate in three-times-per-term LinC seminars, and Fifth and Sixth Form LinC leaders develop the programming for once-per-term LinC Days, which focus on specific topics of interest identified by students.
In all things, Arndt says, talking to students is the foundation of what his office does — figuring out what they’re experiencing, what they’re feeling, what programming they would like more of and what can be scaled back. “It’s continuing those conversations to gauge what’s at the forefront of student interests and concerns, to know the challenges they face and figure out how we can best support them,” he says.
That support was particularly important during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when, as they did everywhere, stresses and challenges at SPS not only multiplied but became magnified. Now, having moved back to what Arndt calls a “less-new normal,” support of student health and wellness is akin to what was in place when Arndt joined the SPS community in fall 2019. “It’s not just me working on this,” he says. “Our office works in partnership with every other adult on campus.”
In addition to his work in the Dean of Students Office, Arndt, who graduated from Colby College in 2012 and spent seven years at the Millbrook School in Millbrook, New York, before coming to Millville, serves as an assistant coach for baseball and the boys basketball team. It’s the baseball player in him that comes out as he describes his role in the Dean of Students Office as that of coach, and Dean of Students Suzanne Ellinwood as the owner or general manager.
“Everything we do is a team effort,” he says, noting that the goal is to optimize student experiences and provide the resources and support that allow students to succeed. “Part of what I really like about the work is that sense of team and adult community.”